I love spring and I also love reading all the various farm newsletters (including Essex Farm, Echo Farm, Tangleroot Farm, Featherbed Lane Farm and Cairncrest Farm to name a few of my weekly favorites). For many of us March is a time of change, movement and reflection. Especially here in the north east, march sets in motion the production plans for the year. Vegetable seeds are planted in greenhouses, lambs, calves and piglets are born, chicks are hatched and the sap in the maple trees starts to drip.
The press of summer is not yet upon us, but mistakes are still made and their ripples can be seen for months. I had a close call this week with our first batch of chicks. The chicks are coming up on their second week birthday (can you have week birthdays?) and they are growing fast. As they grow the chicks graduate from needing constant attention, special chick feeders and chick waterers to more feathers, regular feeders and automatic waterers. This week I was switching them over to the waterers that automatically fill with water as they drink from them. The first time around this can be a delicate task, any leaks can lead to puddles, wet chicks and sickness or death from cold. So I was taking extra care to setup and turn on the waterers before while a few other projects around the barn so I could check in on them.
The waterers work on a simple spring, as the bowl fills with water it gets heavier and eventually no longer depresses the valve that lets water in. There is a small screw adjustment that lets me adjust how much water in the bowl is needed to turn off the valve, and thus change the level of the water. Too much water and it spills too often, making the bedding wet, too little water and the chicks cannot reach it. Throw into this equation that if the waterer is too close to the ground as it fills with water the water valve never closes = puddles = wet chicks = sad chicks.
So I circled back a few times, raising them, adjusting water levels and the like. I also left a few of their old familiar chick waterers to give those slow to transition somewhere recognizable to drink. After one last satisfactory check with no adjustments I left them for the afternoon to make dinner. The next morning as I approached the brooder I could hear from the intensity of their “cheeps” that something was amiss.
Sure enough I had turned off the water during one of my adjustments and neglected to turn it back on. The chicks had drained the few chick waterers I had left them and were thirsty! Luckily it had likely only been a few hours, but even a little mishap like that can cause stress and weight loss come slaughter time. March is when we often re-learn the lessons from last season, maybe it’s a chick waterer, maybe it’s early lambing, maybe its a neglected tray of early brassicas in the germination chamber…
This year we will increase our chicken production to chicks arriving every two weeks (last year it was every 3 weeks) starting with this batch and ending with the last batch arriving at the end of September. If you do the math this means we’ll have 15 batches of 240 chicks (3600 birds). We likely will not put that many in the freezer, since we loose on average 8% of the birds due to predation, sickness and mistakes:)
Chicks arriving every two weeks means that we need a second brooder setup. (Chicks do not leave the brooder until they are at least 3 weeks, and these early batches often stay in the brooder past 3 weeks as we wait for a good weather window). So I have been busy figuring out how to keep a second batch of chicks warm. I do not have enough time to build a whole new brooder, or embark on a large project, so I grabbed two of our retired small coops, brought them into the Solar Barn where we keep the chicks, and gave them some heat lamps.
You might have noticed that there are some funny cardboard arrangements in there? My hope is to “crowd” the chicks during their first few days by confining them to a smaller area with the heat lamps, food and water. This allows them to crowd together and keep warm, as well as concentrating the heat in a smaller area. As they grow we’ll take out the cardboard and let them roam about in the whole area. With a batch size of 240, we’ll split them into two groups of 120 and put one group in each coop. They arrive on Wednesday morning and we’ll be watching the weather in hopes of warm days!
Our Maple Syrup is back in stock! We’re waiting on the arrival of our annual supply of glass jars, so we’re temporarily out of pints and 8 oz.
Pork and Beef Winter Sale ends on Sunday night at midnight! Stock up now, help us move through our inventory and make room for the Organically-fed, Pasture raised pork coming in soon!
Smoked Ham Roast for your Easter meal coming up, order now to get delivery before Easter.
Farm Sampler Box to save on a variety of goodies from the farm.
20 lb Winter Sale Beef Box to save big on a variety of our 100% Grass-Fed Beef.
Pork Winter Sale Box for huge savings on our remaining pork.
Pork Chops and Boston Butt Roasts we’ve marked down for huge savings to help us move through inventory.